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January 13, 2009

New Year Speech by President Sadako Ogata

President Sadako Ogata recently addressed JICA staff on the accomplishment of the agency in 2008 and its challenges in the new year. Following is a summary of her remarks:

"Last year was one of consolidation. This year we must respond to new domestic and international expectations. Japan is part of an inter-dependent world and we must move beyond a way of thinking concerned only with peace for our own country. The core of Japan's contribution to the international community is 'soft power' and JICA bears an important responsibility in this year. I hope that you will endeavor in the spirit of uplifting both Japan and the rest of the world.

The Financial Crisis and Human Security

The world economy faces unprecedented challenges because of the current financial crisis. No country will escape these problems, originating in globalization, but they will have the greatest impact on developing countries and vulnerable populations. An approach based on 'human security' which focuses on the well being of people has become increasingly important both domestically and internationally.

The New Obama Administration and Japan's Place in the World

The new Obama administration in the United States and the emergence of some developing countries (such as China and India) are factors that will expert a large global influence. At the same time we must make Japan's point of view clear on how to respond to global challenges and in this respect JICA has both great responsibilities and great potential.

Responding to Domestic and International Expectations

n the midst of the current financial crisis, government policy indicates a switch to increasing budgets for technical cooperation and grants which have been cut since the 2002 fiscal year, and expansion of Japanese ODA loan programs. I interpret this as a manifestation of the trust and strong expectations that the Japanese people place in JICA.

Expectations of the Global Society

I visited Washington in October, 2008, for a meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and both of these organizations as well as other international bodies expressed strong expectations for cooperation with JICA. It is essential we give specific shape to these activities.

Working to Build Peace and Assist with Reconstruction

A considerable number of countries are experiencing regional conflict. Last year, as a special representative of the prime minister, I attended the opening ceremony of the international airport in the Afghan capital of Kabul which was developed through rant aid. This achievement allowed us to tangibly display the fact that Japan is producing real results. In Afghanistan more than 50 JICA related people are active. An office will be established shortly in Iraq. I expect that in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Somalia and Sierra Leone, our support for peace building will continue expand. Despite imposing challenges, I look forward to continuing our efforts in a creative spirit.

Strengthening Support for Africa

Since the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) last year, Japan's position of working to support Africa has been recognized both domestically and internationally and it is important to continue to build on the foundations of that meeting.

Regional Expectations

We watch in anguish the current turmoil in Gaza and once again the suffering of Palestinians and the challenges facing the Middle East are in the spotlight. JICA has carried out a series of programs supporting Palestine and we will continue our efforts during this critical situation. It is also necessary to monitor Latin America. Oceania-Asia has become relatively developed but continues to be a region important to Japan.

Challenges for 2009

I hope to take on challenges, particularly in the following three areas:

  • a. I want JICA to focus its operations on results. To do this, our challenge is finding ways to understand and evaluate accomplishments and provide precise feedback. It is important to announce our accomplishments both internally and externally a manner that is easy to understand.
  • b. In order to produce 'results' both selection and focus are necessary. Keeping the effects of development in mind, the decision to 'stop' is sometimes an important one. Rather than simply combining different plans, I want to move forward in full force with programs that integrate three modalities of assistance, i.e. technical cooperation, ODA loans, and grant aid. I also plan to further promote efficient operations and a slimmed-down workflow to help improve JICA's efficiency.
  • c. We must strengthen partnerships with organizations and individuals that want to contribute to the efforts of the international community such as private business, research organizations, non governmental organizations (NGOs) and volunteers. Knowledge and creativity are essentially and we must not simply keep doing what we have always done but must instead pursue innovation.

By Sadako Ogata
President of JICA


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